If you are simply exploring the mysterious, tasty world of mead, there are many questions you could ask yourself. One of the most frequently asked questions is: what is the difference between honey wine and mead?
The short answer is that both terms are perfectly fine. Honey wine is mead. Which term you apply mainly depends on your choice. You might realize that mead is the most commonly used term with most products, and this is primarily because it helps to differentiate beer (fermented from grain), mead (fermented from honey), and regular wines (fermented from fruits). However, the terms honey wine and mead are often considered interchangeable.
Even so, there are historical nuances that play a significant role in the variation of terms that you see today.
What Is the Difference Between Honey Wine and Mead?
This article will generally cover everything you wish to understand when it comes to honey wine and mead. Although wine and mead certainly have overlap, the difference is recognizable in terms of availability, food pairings, and flavors.
Regardless if you prefer to take wine and just wine or simply love mead, or if you are not really sure, this article should help compare and make the distinctions clear. Keep reading.
So, what exactly is mead? First things first. Let’s go through some basics, for those who are not aware. Mead is a fermented drink and is also interchangeably known as ambrosia and honey wine. It is created from simple ingredients: honey, yeast, and water.
With the nickname, “Drink of the Gods,” mead shares some similarities, as well as differences, with different alcoholic beverages, such as wine, spiked cider, and beer.
As those drinks named, however, mead also possesses its unique categorization. Its name “Drink of the Gods” is basically deducted from the ancient belief that all bees were some kind of messengers for the gods. More so, bees have been linked to heaven and even predicting the future.
To some people, bees and their honey are associated heavily with fortune and good luck, thus the strong religious and mythological history of mead.
How Long Has Mead Been Around?
For a long time now, mead has had many applications. In fact, it is regarded as one of the most ancient but still consumed beverages. Although it isn’t entirely possible o trace the actual origin date, mead has been stated as far back as 4,000 years ago.
Egypt, Greece, India, and even China all reference mead. Some other nations where mead was also of utmost significance include Norway, Germany, and Celtic regions, where this beverage was associated with mythology. For example, in Celtic mythology, there’s a river of mead that passes along Paradise.
If you’d like a more modern example, think about the word honeymoon. Essentially, the word is derived from a long time ago (almost in the fifth century) when you could keep your calendars according to the moon cycles.
Newlyweds had this tradition of drinking mead on the first moon after being married. Of course, mead is made with honey, thus the name association. Although there are numerous ways that mead has penetrated popular cultures throughout the world, the fact remains that it is, even up to now, both a symbolic and popular drink.
How Does Wine’s History Compare?
You might already know that wine has an extended and storied history. It has also made a huge impact when it comes to shaping and representing different cultures throughout the world. According to historians, the earliest winery may be dated back as far as 4,000 B.C. in Armenia, which is a site that was recently discovered in 2007.
Something like wine, or wine itself, is believed to have been utilized in ancient Egyptian ceremonies and later made its way into Israel, and some Middle East parts as far back as 1,200 B.C.
More so, Rome and Greece used wine for a wide range of applications and got to the Americas by Spanish missionaries. You must understand that wine was not regarded initially as a celebratory drink alone. In fact, it was drunk commonly among a wide range of social statuses and classes. For example, in Rome, wine was regarded as a daily beverage.
Eventually, wine vineyards turned to represent one’s well-being and fortune and in some situations was regarded as a blessing from God.
How It’s Made
Now that you already know the history of mead, let's look into how it's produced. Just like most alcoholic beverages, mead begins with fermentation. Water is first infused into honey for diluting the thick liquid. Afterward, yeast breaks down the sugars in the honey into alcohol. After this primary fermentation is done, the mead is transferred to a different fermentation vessel for more clarification.
Although it sounds simple, mead - just like wine - may be very complex. Just like wine grapes, honey itself offers a huge variety of flavor profiles, based on the kind of flower pollen used. Although the thought of a honey wine might brew up the idea of sweetness, mead may be brewed in a variety of styles, such as dry, semi-sweet, and sparkling.
Mead is closer to wine as opposed to beer when it comes to alcohol content, which generally ranges from 8-20% ABV. Meads can also age for many years - just like high-end wines - creating new layers of complexity.
Honey Wine and Mead: Is There a Legal Difference?
The primary reason for the honey wine/ mead confusion in the U.S. has much to do with a small legal technicality with a lasting effect. The Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) is the federal alcohol regulator in the U.S.
Many alcoholic beverages require to have their labels TTB-approved. And for a long while, the TTB’s labeling division used the phrase “honey wine” rather than the term “mead”. Up until 2016, it was legally required to state honey on the label, and wasn’t allowed to be known as mead! This actually caused even more confusion. Fortunately, primarily because of the American Mead Makers Association’s advocacy, the TTB has given guidance that enables “mead” and “honey wine” to be applied interchangeably on labels.
Simply put, although most people/ brands prefer the term mead, it does not mean that you have to! Regardless of what you call it, it is an ancient-old beverage with an incredible history and a wide culinary footprint to try out and enjoy.
A Honey Wine Mead
Rather than searching the internet trying to find out whether there is a mead vs honey wine discussion or if there is an actual difference, why don’t you find it out yourself? You can check out this recipe for a honey wine mead! You just need a simple brewing kit, and you can enjoy this honey wine mead recipe and even differentiate it from mead, note any similarities if there are. Hidden Legend Winery offers a wide selection of meads that you could compare and contrast with. You can get in the debate yourself and inform them if you notice any truth to the mead and honey wine discussion.
Apart from being an art and a centuries-old craft, brewing is an excellent practice to pick up and participate in the conversation. Maybe you will get a new distinction to help answer the question of what is the difference between honey wine and mead. Regardless of which side you find yourself on, it will truly be a tasteful journey. After all, who would not want to compare and contrast different drinks?